The so-called “Tzohar law” to abolish regional marriage registration districts
was delayed at the end of the the summer Knesset session following an agreement
between the coalition and haredi parties over the budget, it emerged on
The setback is, however, considered to be a temporary delay, with
Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben- Dahan telling The Jerusalem Post on
Sunday that the reform was central to his plans to shake up the provision of
religious services, and would be brought for the final stages of the legislative
process at the beginning of the Knesset winter session.
According to a
report in Ma’ariv, on the night of the vote on the 2013-14 state budget, on July
29 – two days before the end of the summer session – the government agreed to
several concessions to the opposition to avoid parliamentary delaying tactics
which could have prevented the approval of the budget.
One of those
concessions was an agreement not to bring the Tzohar bill to a second and third
(final) reading in the last two days of the summer session.
parties are adamantly opposed to the Tzohar bill, which they claim will damage
the integrity of the rabbinate marriage system.
rabbinical group Tzohar, the architect of the law, alleges that regional
marriage registration districts perpetuate an inefficient, hostile and even
corrupt system, thereby alienating secular Israelis from religion for whom
marriage registration and the wedding process is one of the only times they
encounter the religious establishment.
According to the report, Yisrael
Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman made an agreement with Shas chairman Arye
Deri, along with MK David Rotem of Yisrael Beytenu and MK Eitan Cabel of Labor,
who has proposed the bill. The coalition supposedly would be able to advance the
budget without hindrance while the haredi parties got to stymie the Tzohar bill
a little longer.
Ben-Dahan said that the agreement was made without
consultation with Bayit Yehudi and that regrettably several members of the
coalition agreed to a number of demands made by the opposition in return for
shortening the debate on the budget.
The deputy minister insisted,
however, that the bill would be brought for its second and third readings “in
the first few days of the winter session,” and stressed the the importance of
passing the measure as a piece of Knesset legislation instead of an
administrative directive from the Religious Services Ministry, which would make
it easier for the policy to be revoked in the future.
Cabel confirmed the
agreement had been made but said, like Ben-Dahan, that the bill would be brought
for it second and third readings at the beginning of the winter
The new legislation will allow couples to register with the
local rabbinate of any district or city they wish regardless of where they
The law was promoted by Tzohar because it alleged that
the rabbis belonging to its rabbinical association were prevented by the Chief
Rabbinate and the Religious Services Ministry, formerly run by Shas, from
gaining licenses to perform marriages.
Most couples seeking to use
Tzohar’s free wedding service and to have the organization help them through the
bureaucracy were directed by the group to register in two or three registration
districts, which were not their place of residence as required by law.
the end of 2011, then-religious services minister and then-Shas MK Ya’acov Margi
imposed a strict limit on the number of registrations that could be conducted in
the Tzohar- friendly marriage registration districts, thereby de facto severely
limiting the number of people who could take advantage of Tzohar’s wedding
In recent years, the organization has conducted about 3,000
marriages annually. The current bill stems from this struggle.